Bill would require ID at voting booth

Two people voting (AP)

March 15, 2011 3:19:58 PM PDT
The General Assembly discussed requiring voter identification at the voting booth during a two hour public hearing Tuesday afternoon.

The proposed legislation is called the Restore Confidence in Government Bill. It was introduced Monday night and its contents have Democrats fuming.

Passions flared on both sides during the two hours of public comment. The bill, which requires voters to show ID at the polls, is as polarizing as any bill this year.

“There is voter fraud taking place in our state, voter ID would stop the majority of that,” voter Donna Williams said.

“It is nuanced Jim Crow, voter suppression of the 21st century,” NC NAACP President Rev. William Barber argued.

Lawmakers appear to be taking sides along partisan lines. Democrats stood together opposing the Republican backed bill.

Democratic Representative Larry Hall of Durham is critical of how and when the bill was introduced -- 9 p.m. Monday.

“Do something in the dark of night, schedule a public hearing, and not have our citizens be given the courtesy of knowing what they’re supposed to comment about,” Hall said.

But the bigger concern for Democrats is what the bill will do and who it will do it to.

Lawmakers say the bill will deny young voters, senior voters and residents of retirement and nursing homes. Those who are disenfranchised are the most vulnerable citizens and need the most support, according to Democratic Congressman G. K. Butterfield.

Republicans are quick to dismiss those concerns. Many say the bill is far from disenfranchising some voters and will give all voters’ results they can believe in.

“The problem is if we have a really close statewide election in NC, you are not going to see a confidence that that was a legal election, and that’s why this is a good move toward restoring people’s confidence,” said Francis De Luca, Civitas.

There are still many unknowns.

Cost -- one report shows voter ID could cost the state tens of millions of dollars.

Education -- people would know about the new law before the next election.

Fairness -- some people, like shut-ins, may have trouble getting IDs.

But Tuesday was about how people felt and feelings ran strong on both sides. A judge who attended the hearing encouraged lawmakers to do what they could with the bill to help people vote, not discourage anyone.

“If illegal voting is happening, then every honest voter is hurt,” Williams said.

There are other parts to the bill. It begins to address the problem of pay to play in government. It also eliminates some public campaign funding such as council of state and judicial, but Democrats say it’s all noise compared to the bigger issue of voter ID.

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